“You can’t support them all can you?”

Let me start by start by confessing that I am writing this to myself as much as to anyone else, and particularly to those of us who call ourselves Christians. It covers the challenging topic of giving money. Often we say, or hear others say something like, “I won’t give to that charity. You can’t support them all, can you?”  It sounds reasonable, but is it correct? Christians believe that Jesus Christ gave everything for us. He gave his life that we might have a rich and satisfying life. We believe that there is guidance in the Bible on how to live such a life. Here are some passages:

“Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” “When you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

The message appears to be that yes, we can support them all. I was discussing this with my wife after looking at the distribution of income on an earlier post. When would it be OK to say no, we are giving enough? I suggested that perhaps it was OK when our income net of giving was that of the lowest on the curve – the bottom 10%. If we expect people on the bottom 10% to live full and satisfying lives on their income, shouldn’t we be willing to do the same? Elsewhere in the bible is states that:  “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  So how does that fit with “sell all you have and give the money to the poor”? Perhaps it means that if we are unable to give cheerfully to anyone who asks then we need to work on our heart. Maybe we need to teach ourselves to love more. As well as listening to the advice on how to maximise our income, invest in schemes to give high interest and avoid paying tax, we need to be hearing that we can manage on less. We can still maximise our income, but to give more away instead of saving it for ourselves.  See also my post “The Wealthy are Redeemable” Yes, I am sure I am being hypocritical in writing this. But that does not make what I have written wrong. Let’s all ponder this in our hearts and see what we decide to do.

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If you want some ideas, try these links:

http://5quidforlife.org.uk/

http://www.hope4.org.uk/

feel free to add your own in the comments.  I’ll add them here when I get time.

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Thank God that the Conservatives won the general election.

What a headline from someone who voted for the Green Party. Why would I say such a thing? And why would I put a picture of David Cameron as my desktop background?

The problem with our country is not that we don’t have the right political leadership, but that the citizens of our nation have abdicated our responsibilities as human beings to the government.   And now we have a government that is unwilling to fulfil those responsibilities.

This abdication of responsibility has been very attractive. If my neighbour loses his job, her house or gets sick, I can sympathise with their situation and blame the government. I don’t have to do anything practical myself. When a civilised nation is relying on food banks, we bear no responsibility for the situation.

Why do I thank God for the election result?

Because we must now accept that caring for those who are the most vulnerable in society cannot be left to the government. We now have to take responsibility for our neighbour. We now have to all ‘love our neighbour as ourselves’.

We have been given a wakeup call, and we need to respond – and when we do, it will make us better people.

Most of us will help out our friends and immediate neighbours if they are in trouble, but we are likely to be in similar financial circumstances to them. It seems unfair that we have to help them out when those who are much better off than us don’t. The political argument says that the big things should be covered by taxes, and the tax system should ensure that the better off help out the worse off.   The election result is telling us that we cannot rely on a political solution. The world is not fair, but we still need to show love to our neighbour.

Who is our neighbour? Two thousand years ago Jesus was asked that same question, and in his parable of the Good Samaritan, he pointed out that everyone is our neighbour, the poor and the rich are neighbours even if they don’t live next door.

Loving our neighbour means that in all our dealings with others we must remember that they too are human beings and deserve to be treated as such: whether they are richer or poorer than us, doctor or patient, banker or borrower, unemployment officer or unemployed, teacher or pupil. We are all fellow human beings – yes, even Mr Cameron.

The political solution – the tax system – means that the richer do help the poorer, but cuts will inevitably affect the day-to-day lives of the poor.

Less than a lifetime ago, when the government was not able to provide enough services,  private individuals did their best to fill the gap. Wealthy people of the day took the responsibility of wealth seriously and responded by providing the money for essential services. It is time for the wealthy today to do the same.

It is also time for everyone to accept that having one’s living provided free of effort by the state is not a right.

Both rich and poor deserve the opportunity of being able to contribute to society through work, and through sharing resources. Of course there are times when many will struggle, through losing a job, sickness, or other mishap, and in those times we need to continue to treat everyone as human beings, worthy or respect and dignity.

So, thank God for this reminder that we are all members of the same human race, all on this lonely planet together, and that we need to take up the responsibilities that we didn’t realise that we had neglected. May each of us to respond as best we can.

income distribution UK…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

If you like the way I think and want to find out more, why not buy my book “The Big Picture”

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Get off your bum and stop wasting your life!

Minimalist Christian:

Something to put all our rush into perspective and perhaps rethink our values?

Originally posted on The Red Wine Box:

20121103_233006‘Fatigue’ is not a helpful term. People think it just means that you’re really tired. Everyone has felt really tired at some point in their lives. Young parents who haven’t had a proper night’s sleep for months or even years. People working 60 hour weeks to keep body and soul together. Anyone and everyone at some time in their life has thought that a long period of rest would be a pretty wonderful thing.

One person said to me that they quite fancy some time off ‘to relax properly’ like I’m having.

Adding ‘chronic’ to fatigue just means that you are really seriously malingering!

Everyone knows that even when you’re really tired you can motivate yourself to get the necessary done. So why don’t I just get off my bum and set myself some positive targets and stop wasting my life?

Wasting life is a big theme isn’t it? Seize…

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The Man Born to be King

Good guidance from a fellow blogger (and wife).

The Man Born to be King.

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The arrogance and hypocrisy of Stephen Fry

So Mr Fry, you are judge, jury and executioner for God because some people get cancer, or illness; because God allows suffering.  I am reminded of your character Melchet sentencing Blackadder to death for killing his favourite pigeon.

You assume that God can do anything and so he must be able to prevent all cancer and suffering, and therefore He must be evil to allow it.  What trivial thinking from a man purported to be intelligent. What arrogance to presume to be worthy to judge.

Can God make a square circle?  Of course not, and it’s silly to suggest that he can.

Can God make a universe that spawns intelligent, purposeful life without any pain or discomfort?  Of course not, and it’s silly to suggest that he can.

So should God not have bothered?

Would you, Mr Fry, rather live, love and die with pain in your life or not live at all?  You have a choice, and your daily choice seems to be continue to live.

Whenever you get into a car Mr Fry, you risk running over an innocent child, inflicting anguish on their parents.  You cause actual damage to the ecosystem of the planet, and consequential pain and suffering in those less privileged than yourself.  You choose to damage your fellow human beings when you actually do have an alternative.

You convict God for allowing suffering, should you not be lambasting the Ford motor company for creating machines that cause such carnage?  It is impossible to make a car that does not risk causing death and damage to the planet, yet we all choose the benefit and accept the consequence.

Do you not feel a hint of hypocrisy in living as you do and yet criticising the one who has given you the opportunity?

 

 

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I think I might be a panentheist – I hope it’s catching!

The ancient Celts knew a thing or two. They were not the wild fighters who the Sheriff of Nottingham brought in to drive Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood from his idyllic woodland village. They had a special understanding of the nature of things. According to “The Celtic Way” by Ian Bradley they held “a conviction that the presence of God was to be found throughout creation – in the physical elements of earth, rock and water, in plants trees and animals and in the wayward forces of wind and storm.”

Bradley goes on to say that “We are not in the world of pantheism here but in the much more subtle and suggestive realm of panentheism – the sense that God is found both within creation and outside it.”

Elsewhere I have written that God is ‘the laws of physics’ – it’s just another name for the thing which causes matter to behave in the way that it does. Without God/’the laws of physics’ there can be no matter – God and matter are not independent, and so matter is (part of) God. (see “Proof of God?”)

I have also noted that there are non-material things: love, justice, purpose etc. These must similarly be part of God – reflected in the Biblical passages which state that God is love. (see “An argument for, and definition of God”)

This understanding of the nature of God leads us to realise that you don’t need to go somewhere to meet God – he doesn’t live in church or a monastery – he is all around us, and within us, sustaining our physical bodies and our environment: “we are what we are through and within God”. (see “The God of Science”)

The Celts understood this. Not within the scientific context that I have described, but in the practical day-to-day knowledge of God. Perhaps we need to refresh our view and understanding of science to reflect this Celtic wisdom: science is simply the study of God!
There is no separate sacred / secular division, no God / nature division, no heaven / earth division; they are all part of God who is God of everything.

 

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A robust intellectual basis for Christianity is not enough.

I like to understand why things are like they are. As a child I was taught that science provides the answers that I needed.

When in later life I became a Christian I thought that there was a conflict between science and God, but for a while reconciled this with the idea that ‘God can do anything’. A simple idea, but science and faith was not an area that I really wanted to explore.

We are given the impression that ‘science knows’, but we just haven’t been told yet. About five years ago I decided to find out. What does science know? What does it still not know? Are there things it can never know? Taking everything into account, what story best fits all the facts, a godless universe or one with a God?

I adopted an analytical approach, but avoided the temptation to dig too deeply into details of each field. I just tried to understand the underlying principles sufficiently to see what they contribute to the big picture. I found that most people feel uncomfortable outside of their specialist field, that few seem willing to take the necessary overview.

Having read a couple of books like ‘The Edge of Evolution” by the Intelligent Design proponents I began thinking that it may be possible to prove God exists. But then I read secular books on the origins of life and realised that everyone accepts the remarkable unlikelihood of life but that it doesn’t provide irrefutable proof – there are alternative explanations such as the multiverse theory.

I needed to find out where the Bible came from; could I trust it, and if so, why? I researched the source of the NT documents in particular, and some of the gospel accounts that are excluded from the Bible (the Da Vinci code stuff). I realised that the gospel accounts are not trying to prove who Jesus was and what he did, but that they wouldn’t have been written if he hadn’t done some amazing things. The accounts are simply people trying to capture what happened for future generations. The Bible is not a spells book: “Do this and God will do that for you”.

I reached a number of conclusions about how to understand and respond to the big picture of what’s going on. Realising that everything requires a level of faith (including science of course), I suggest a response which recognises that many religious and scientific dogmas are unproven and unprovable – but unnecessary. I call the response “Minimalist Christianity”. I wrote up what I found in “The Big Picture”, found a publisher and then set about marketing my masterpiece.

There is a robust intellectual basis for Christianity, and I would commend it to others, but I recently realised that in exploring it I was falling into a bit of a trap. Because I have necessarily spent several years testing and probing, viewing things sceptically, I let my personal spiritual life become analytical too. My reasoning has shown that God exists, and that he must have a ‘personality’ and want to interact with each of us, but I have not really been responding to the real God – just developing an intellectual one.

We need to ‘get to know God’ as more than an idea; I need to follow my own advice! It is from the integrity of that relationship that the power to fulfil our purpose will flow. We need analysis to know that we can trust, but then we need to act on that trust to complete the experience. Having determined that the rock exists, we need to actively build the house of our life on it!

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.” Jesus circa 30AD

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